Ahead of next month's results, Peter Peacock has backed the SQA review of the first tranche of subjects deemed to need more fundamental work on course structures and assessment. In-depth reviews are being carried out on seven more.
Unveiling the proposals, part of the Scottish Executive's decision to streamline the post-16 exam system, Mr Peacock said: "We are committed to simplifying the assessment and exam system while ensuring it continues to provide a rigorous assessment of students' abilities. Reducing red tape and streamlining the system allows teachers and lecturers to concentrate on what they do best - getting the best from their students."
The SQA has so far reviewed 70 subjects covering more than 200 courses and made significant changes. But 18 subjects demanded more scrutiny. Schools and colleges will be expected to introduce the changes for session 2004-05 except for music, which will be a year later.
* Accounting and finance: course structure should be revised to become two 60-hour units with improved progression and differentiation between levels and a course title that more closely reflects content.
* Administration: one 80-hour unit and one 40-hour unit. Content should be revised especially to take account of the use of new technology. Unit titles should be revised and units at all levels should be designed to be hierarchical.
* Computinginformation systems: two mandatory 40-hour units and a further 40-hour unit chosen from two or three options. Each unit should have two outcomes, one detailing knowledge and understanding and the other practical skills.
* Craft and design: three mandatory units at each level from Intermediate 1 to Higher. Weighting of marks should reflect the balance of knowledge, understanding and skill within courses.
* Geography: internal and external assessment should be reviewed to eliminate duplication. Intermediate 1 and 2 and Higher units should be retitled to show progression more clearly. The choice of topics at Intermediate 2 should be revised to reflect that available at Highers.
* Media studies: three 40-hour units with two 40-hour units at Intermediate 2 and Higher covering media analysis (fiction) and media analysis(non-fiction). Reduced internal assessment.
* Physical education: two 60-hour units at Intermediate 1 and 2 and Higher.
Volume of assessment reduced and duplication eliminated. New assessment banks and exemplar material created.
* Psychology: three mandatory units from Intermediate 1 to Higher. External assessment should consist of a question paper at Intermediate 1 and 2 and a question paper and research investigation at Higher.
* Religious, moral and philosophical studies: three mandatory units at Intermediate 1 and 2 and Higher. New course content, particularly to reflect contemporary concerns and viewpoints.
* Music: consultation carried out but no consensus on the best way forward.
New proposals - subject to consultation - have been developed and changes are set to be introduced in 2005-06.